When it comes to organizing, the best system is the one you come up with to suit your particular life circumstances. Systems devised by others can give you ideas, but it rarely works when you try to follow them to the letter. Not that I haven't tried. There's something irresistible about other people's systems, the promise being that if only you could stick to a system, you'd never be caught with an empty fridge or messy living room ever again.
One of the most popular organizing systems has to be Flylady's. While I have nothing but respect for Marla Cilley (aka the Flylady, so named for her love of fly-fishing), I can't make heads or tails of her system, which involves a complex series of overlapping and interconnecting events, tasks, reminders, and routines. As far as I can tell, the flylady's system consists of:
- a morning routine, which includes making the bed, doing laundry, cleaning the toilet, and reconciling your check book daily, along with "hitting a hot spot" or clearing a cluttered area;
- an evening routine, in which you clean the kitchen and living room for "20 minutes, tops" but then you continue doing chores like laying out your clothes for the next day and setting the table in preparation for breakfast. These additional chores are not counted in the aforementioned "20 minutes";
- a weekly routine, in which on Monday alone you vacuum all the rooms, change sheets, empty trash, mop, and dust; the rest of the days are for errands/grocery shopping, desk time, and doing things like cleaning the refrigerator, polishing shoes, mending clothes, and cleaning out your purse;
- 15 minutes of "zone" cleaning, in which you declutter/deep clean an area of your home. Under the flylady's system, the zone must be decluttered before "deep cleaning" (i.e. washing windows or attacking cobwebs) can take place;
- a "hot spot fire drill"--which appears to be a daily event tied to the morning routine, above; it also appears in the evening;
- 15 minutes on a "flyspot"--I'm not sure if this is a daily or weekly event, or if it's related to a "hot spot" or not; a recent example on the flylady website was to declutter the kitchen counters for 5 (not 15) minutes. Presumably this was in addition to any other "decluttering" in the "zone";
- a daily "mission," like cleaning the garbage can in the kitchen. This is to be done only if the "zone" has been "decluttered";
- a 5-minute, daily "room rescue" for your most cluttered room;
- a "27 fling boogie" in which you throw 27 things away; I'm not sure if this is a daily event or not.
In addition, there are optional "early afternoon" routines, "after school" routines, and "late afternoon" routines. There's also a subscription service to keep you on track, resulting in about 16 or 17 emails a day reminding you to go to bed or get off the computer, as well as to check on your laundry or start dinner.
Adding up the time, I came up with:
- About an hour for the morning routine, not counting showering, getting dressed, or otherwise getting yourself ready;
- 30 minutes for the evening routine, not counting making dinner;
- An hour or more for the weekly routine chores
- 15 minutes in the zone
- maybe 20 minutes for the fire drill
- Let's say 5-10 minutes for the flyspot
- Another 5-10 minutes for the mission
- 5 minutes for the room rescue
- 10 minutes for the 27 fling boogie
So by my account, the least amount of time you'd need in order to follow flylady's system would be 3 and a half hours a day non-stop; more like five if you count doing laundry throughout the day, as well as doing regular chores not mentioned in the routines and lists, like ironing, or making dinner and setting the table (which is what the "late afternoon" routine is for). In fact, it's a very good schedule if you happen to be home all day and don't have a regular job, kids, or outside interests of any kind. No wonder I could never follow the system!
While I typed up my own room-by-room chore list last week, what I've found to be the most helpful in keeping me squared away remains the "ground zero" approach: whatever calls my attention the most is what I work on, when I have the chance to do so. Sometimes this means tackling the bathroom; other times it's picking up my study or preparing enough food to last a couple days during the week. I may run out of clean socks on occasion, but it's a small price to pay for having a life.